Penguins general manager Ray Shero submitted a “very competitive offer” to free agent forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. Even though both players opted to sign with the Minnesota Wild, Shero can still reflect on his team’s already abundant talent.
“Adding a guy like Parise or Suter would have been fantastic,” Shero said, “but we still have two First Team All-Stars coming back to add to our forward group in (Evgeni) Malkin and (James) Neal and adding Sidney Crosby. That’s a pretty good lineup already.”
Shero could also have also mentioned that Malkin and Crosby are NHL MVPs and scoring champions, or that Marc-Andre Fleury is a Stanley Cup winning goaltender, or that defenseman Kris Letang is among the best in the league.
Despite the fact that the Parise-Suter sweepstakes took four days, Shero said that the wait did not affect the Penguins’ ability to target other free agents, particularly Steve Sullivan, who played for Pittsburgh last season, but signed a contract with Phoenix.
“We didn’t miss out on anybody,” said Shero via conference call Wednesday. “You’re talking about Suter and Parise. There aren’t another Suter and Parise out there. We didn’t miss out on anybody. That’s what we were waiting on and other guys were in the same boat. We knew that guys were signing, but they aren’t at this level, that’s for sure.
“We made a decision on Sullivan (Tuesday) that we were going to move on anyway. I was in constant contact with his agent. He told me the couple teams he had offers from. We talked again internally and made a decision that Sullivan should take one of those offers and encouraged the agent to do so.”
With Sullivan out, an opening is created among the Penguins’ top-six forward group. And Shero said the team has several options for filling in the hole.
“If we don’t fill that hole via free agency or trade then someone is going to get the opportunity,” he said. “We can’t play one short, that’s for sure. We’ve always talked about (Tyler Kennedy) having the ability to move up and maybe it’s his time to do that. We are a ways away from the start of the season. We’ll see what comes our way.
“We’ll do our homework and see if we can upgrade our team at some point and see what the summer brings us.”
Something else the Penguins have to keep in mind as they move forward into the summer and examine their roster is the big picture – which includes the team’s core stars needing new contracts soon.
“We have Fleury up in three years, Malkin up in two years, Letang up in two years,” Shero said. “Every team has to look at those snap shots and try to balance that salary cap as best they can.”
The Penguins also have an added advantage, and it may help as the team looks to improve in the future.
“The one thing we do have now that we haven’t had in a while is cap space,” Shero said. “That’s something we can bank on moving forward and we’ll see where that takes us.”